Am I the only one who finds it sinister that just after I started carrying a BlackBerry, my life has changed completely? When I first got the dark object, I played down its intrinsic ‘Hmm, I see you’ve got a BlackBerry’ factor. Part of me was unsure whether I needed one at all (I bought my first mobile phone in 2003 after much cajoling), while another part of me went ‘Preciousssss’ like Gollum in The Lord of the Rings. But with the blasted contraption stuck to me like the albatross around the ancient mariner’s neck, I have been left to zombie around without peace, without redemption.
As you may have gathered by now, I’m no gizmo freak — although I once bought a laptop that I no longer use because of a great sales pitch at a mall. In terms of the wireless email device’s function as a ‘status-enhancer’, I am of the opinion that to be seen with it in public is as bad as having a gurgling fountain in the living room next to a carefully arranged Swarovski collection.
So, you are perfectly legit to ask, why did I get the blasted object? The only honest answer I can give you is this: greed.
The virtues of a BlackBerry feed this greed of mine. Say, I’m in the middle of a drink-fuelled conversation where I’m telling a friend that he just has to see Peter Sellers in that movie... you know, that one in which he’s a slow-witted gardener who is taken to be a Zen-like master of international diplomacy and ultimately becomes the US President because his pet statement, ‘Tend to the plants and they will be fine,’ is taken to be a metaphor rather than a literal. Pre-BlackBerry, I would tear my hair out, call people who may know the name of the movie or can go near a Google-enabled computer, or order another round of drinks hoping to dredge out the name from the bowels of my brain (with quite opposite effects). Nowadays, I punch into my portable Google and before you can say ‘database management system’, I get my answer. (It’s Being There.)
Another lovely feature that the BlackBerry offers me is access to electronic texts — and this is important — while I’m curled up in bed. Going straight to Project Gutenberg, with its growing catalogue of online books, I can read backlit pages of books that will never come to the bookshops or libraries (teeming with bloody management and software programming books these days any way). On Friday, the top draw among Project Gutenberg’s e-books was Manual of Surgery Volume First: General Surgery by Miles Thomson, with the 1922 Sex by Henry Stanton, in the series, ‘Avoided Subjects Discussed in Plain English’, coming at a healthy No. 18. Last night I was engrossed under the sheets with my BlackBerry reading the 1916 publication, The Relation of the Hrolfs Saga Kraka and the Bjarkarimur to Beowulf by Oscar Ludvig Olson.
But I bet my first born that these aren’t BlackBerry-enabled functions that led to my office providing me with the contraption. I can’t see my boss wanting to know from me whether Saxo Grammaticus’s account of Biarco’s fight with a bear has any resemblance to the account in the Hrolfs Saga of Bjarki’s fight with a winged monster.
And therein lies the rub. The BlackBerry, not unlike those electronic bracelets given to offenders on parole that start beeping if they cross a certain radius, gurgles out round-the-clock information that I don’t want to know round the clock. E-mail replies that I happily left to Mondays are now expected to be made on Sundays. I’ve been chainganged to cc:s that have to be read through before I can make up my mind whether I really need to be involved in the ensuing back-and-forth tennis match or not.
I try to not look at the soundless red flashes (emails) and respond only to the beeped ones (smses). But it’s not working. I’ve been BlackBerried. And the worst bit is that I had asked for it.